A man who spent 13 years in prison for a murder he did not commit has been awarded £13.2 million dollars (£8.8m) in compensation – something which could never happen in the UK which campaigners say heads the injustice league.
David Ayers of Cleveland cried as a jury found that two police detectives violated his civil rights by falsifying testimony and withholding evidence that pointed to his innocence.
The jury’s verdict on Friday, which included awarding the compensation for his pain and suffering, brings an end to the legal battle he has been fighting since his arrest in the 1999 killing of 76-year-old Dorothy Brown.
Mr Ayers was released from prison in 2011 after the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reversed his conviction and the state decided not to seek another trial.
The 56-year-old, who was a security guard for the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, had been found guilty of killing Ms Brown at her CMHA apartment in Cleveland.
“This should have been stopped a long time ago,” Mr Ayers told the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper after the jury’s verdict.
“My goal is that it never happens to anyone else ever again.”
He filed his civil rights lawsuit in March 2012 against six Cleveland police officers, the city and the county housing authority.
Allegations against three of the officers, the city and the housing authority were dismissed by a judge who found that their roles did not violate Ayers’ rights.
One of the remaining officers settled out of court with Ayers for an undisclosed amount. The Friday verdict was against Michael Cipo and Denise Kovach, who were the lead detectives in the case, and have denied misconduct.
Among the most serious allegations by Mr Ayers against the two detectives were that they conspired with each other to fabricate a confession that he never made.
He also said they coerced a friend of Mr Ayers to lie by saying that Mr Ayers had told him of the murder before Ms Brown’s body was discovered, and gave key information about the crime to Mr Ayers’ prison cellmate so he could later testify against Mr Ayers about an admission he did not make.
The detectives had argued to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying that they acted in good faith and with probable cause.
Federal Judge James Gwin denied their request late last month shortly before the trial, ruling Mr Ayers had produced sufficient evidence that the detectives had violated his rights.
Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said the UK had much to learn from this judgement.
“Only last month we had the sickening spectacle of Barry George [above], a man who spent eight long years in prison for the murder of Jill Dando that he did not commit, being told by our highest court that he wasn’t innocent enough to be given compensation.
“Its despicable that even had he been compensated our judges would have demanded that he pay back a proportion of his compensation for prison board and lodging – paying for eight years worth of porridge he had no right to eat and almost a decade occupying a prison bed he had no right to lay on.
“Its all very well the public and the politicians of this country saying our prisoners deserve nothing, not even the vote, but the price we all pay for that short-sighted approach is an isolated and excluded section of our society who form their own criminal communities, with their own rules and gang cultures – so next time you or your loved one are a victim of crime, remember that.”